Drugs are related to over 85% of crime in the United States, and any discussion of
contemporary issues in the criminal justice system has to address drugs. Drug crimes
impact every community and every demographic. Drugs are related to, or the cause of,
many types of crime in U.S. society. Combating drugs means dealing with both criminal
and social issues.
What Constitutes a Drug?
One could argue as to what constitutes a drug when discussing drug crimes. For the
purposes here, a
is any mind-altering substance, whether legal or illegal.
Therefore, alcohol, marijuana (even in locations where it is legal), and prescription pills
are part of this lesson. Drugs are often the cause or outcome of many societal ills,
including both criminal and social matters.
It is easy to look at a rock of cocaine or a baggie of methamphetamine and recognize it as an
illegal and dangerous substance. Alcohol can be obtained legally, and in many jurisdictions
marijuana use, at least limited or medicinal use, is legal. Whether a drug is obtained legally or
illegally is only the first type of drug crime that plagues the U.S. criminal justice system.
The illegal possession of a drug is a simple matter on the surface.
But the person behind the drug, his or her story, and why the
addiction or use began is often more complex. Many people turn
to drugs to hide from or mask other problems. Some crime
victims, such as sex abuse or domestic violence victims, turn to
drugs as a form of self-help.
The Sale and Distribution of Drugs and Other Drug Crimes
The sale and distribution of drugs is another matter.
Most would agree that those who profit from selling
drugs, and make them available to children, should
be punished more harshly than those who simply
Other crimes occur as a result of persons trying to
obtain drugs, either directly or indirectly. Home
invasion robberies of drug dealers are a common